A workplace violence threat assessment is the practice of determining the credibility and seriousness of a potential threat, the probability that the threat will become a reality, and steps that can help prevent or mitigate it should it occur.
Digging deeper, we must understand that workplace violence threat assessments are an essential component for an effective approach to workplace safety and security, according to Oscar Villanueva, COO of TAL Global, who has considerable experience conducting threat assessments.
“A workplace violence threat assessment investigation from a security and behavioral health perspective is to [help] prevent violence or manage an event, even if it is already underway,” says Villanueva. “It involves the analysis of the situation, interviews of witnesses and victims, maybe even interviews or contact with the perpetrator or person of interest, but this may not always be possible or advisable.”
Once an incident occurs, it’s up to the threat assessment professionals to piece together the puzzle of what took place and provide expert advice regarding next steps.
Case in Point
Let us explore a mass shooting event in Aurora, IL, as if we were threat assessment professionals called in to investigate the incident. First, we need to know what happened:
- On February 15, 2019, a mass shooting occurred at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora.
- The shooter was a former employee, Gary Montez Martin. Believing he might be fired, he warned other employees if he was fired, he would kill them and others in the company.
- First reports of the shooting began at 1:24 p.m. Within four minutes, police arrived on the scene, followed by agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, as well as U.S. Marshals.
- The shooting was in progress when law enforcement authorities arrived.
- Gary Montez Martin had been arrested for domestic violence in Mississippi, where he served time in prison for aggravated assault. He had been arrested by Aurora police six times on various charges and was arrested in a nearby city for disorderly conduct.
- Before his felony conviction in Mississippi, Martin applied for a Firearm Owners Identification card (FOID) in Illinois. This card allowed him to purchase a gun in Illinois and was issued in 2014. Later, after a fingerprint and background check, the state revoked his FOID and demanded the return of all firearms. He ignored their demand.
- To get a FOID, the state accesses FBI and state databases for more information about the applicant. Grounds for disqualification in Illinois include anyone convicted of domestic abuse, assault, or battery within five years.
Illinois may also disqualify someone who mental health professionals report is harmful to themselves or others, violent, suicidal, or displays threatening behavior. In this case, it does not appear the databases were up to date regarding Gary Montez Martin.
Your Workplace Violence Threat Assessment Investigation Begins
Let’s continue with our scenario. The Pratt Company has called you to conduct a threat assessment based on observable behavior and threats made by Martin. As referenced earlier, your goals are to help prevent such an incident from occurring again and advise your client on ways to mitigate or manage the incident if it should.
Among the steps in a workplace violence threat assessment you would take are the following:
- Conduct interviews with witnesses, managers and other stakeholders close to the situation to determine the credibility of the threat and how to move forward in handling this employee.
- Conduct a background and social media investigation of Martin to determine his past behavior related to violence.
- Have behavioral health and security experts review the information collected and provide their insights.
- Evaluate the findings and present them to key stakeholders at the Pratt Company. Your findings will include steps they can take to prevent such an incident from happening again.
As we can see, it is an involved investigation. Organizations that have experienced such violence or want to take steps now to prevent it should collaborate with professionals trained to conduct threat assessments. While it is a complex process, many organizations now consider it one they cannot delay.
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Chief Operating Officer